This article is brought to you by Squarespace.
For those who aren’t familiar with my professional background, I was a freelancer for several years before I joined the TFD team. I also continued freelancing for the first few years I worked at TFD. If a (paying) task was somehow related to writing and editing, I did it. This included writing under my own name, ghostwriting for business owners and companies, copywriting for social media and product descriptions, copyediting of all sorts, and more in-depth editing. I first started out finding one-off clients on sites like Upwork, and eventually found better-paying clients through Contently and my own digital networking.
I know that if I ever wanted to start freelancing again or start a new side hustle, I have enough experience finding new opportunities that I wouldn’t be scared to get started, even if it was a struggle to get back in the game at first. But I know that’s not true for everyone! Finding freelance clients or promoting a side hustle is especially tough when you’re just starting out. So, along with our partners at Squarespace, I’ve put together this list of opportunities you’re likely missing out on in your freelance or side hustle life.
1. Putting off creating a website.
Having a website is incredibly valuable no matter what kind of work you do. It can be a stand-in for a traditional resume or business card, or provide more polish and legitimacy to your side-hustle endeavor. When I was freelancing, having a website was a much more impressive way to showcase my work itself than simply sharing samples on my LinkedIn page. I used it to clearly state the types of services I offered and showcase my previous examples of each type of work — simple, but effective! And with Squarespace, it’s easy for literally anyone to create a website, with absolutely no coding experience required. (Check out our co-founder and designer Lauren’s how-to guide for putting together her Squarespace site here!)
Squarespace has hundreds of beautiful templates to choose from. It doesn’t matter what design skills you do or don’t possess — you can create a sleek, professional website within minutes. Plus, you can claim your own URL, bring your idea to life with a custom site that matches your style, and even sell a product all in the same place.
For anyone looking to start or expand a side hustle, a website is also crucial for visibility. You can put your URL pretty much anywhere — in your automated email signature, social media bios, community forums and directories, etc.
And if you want to take it one level higher, you can use SEO to target potential clients in your local area. For example, if you’re starting a home organization side hustle in Brooklyn, you can use Squarespace’s SEO tools to find the best keywords and optimization tactics to ensure people in your neighborhood find your website. Squarespace takes the guesswork out of search engine optimization for your website, which means you’ll get found in search by more people, more often.
2. Not checking your LinkedIn messages.
When I was freelancing, this was a big one for me! I don’t love having to use yet another social media platform in my everyday life, but I can’t deny that LinkedIn has led to some professional opportunities I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I keep my profile up to date, and because of my title and industry, I can count on getting cold messages from hiring managers about once a month. And on one significant occasion, I was able to turn someone’s interest in me for a salaried position into a long-term freelance copywriting gig.
Now, here are some caveats: I work in the personal finance space, and financial services companies often have more money to spend on freelance work than other potential clients. I also started receiving more cold outreach once I had some significant experience under my belt, so it’s more difficult to expect when you’re just starting out. I also know that racial discrimination plays a significant role in who has access to job opportunities, so I very well might receive more outreach than others simply because I’m white.
However, keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date and making it clear that you’re open to new opportunities (specify which kind) is a tiny thing you can do to make a big difference. If you want to use LinkedIn to promote side hustle, make sure your profile is doing the work — you can edit your “headline” to say whatever you want, so use keywords that will make you easier to find! And remember that you can list clients or projects under your “experience” section in addition to salaried or hourly positions. Here is a good primer on using LinkedIn for finding more freelance or side hustle opportunities.
3. Not promoting your work on social media.
Self-promotion is uncomfortable for a lot of people, and I get it — no one wants to appear braggy or like they are trying to be opportunistic. But if you don’t get at least a little comfortable with self-promotion, finding new freelance clients or side hustle opportunities is going to be that much harder.
My advice is to find the avenues where you are more comfortable self-promoting, and use those first. For instance, I joined an online book club when we first started social distancing. The entire thing takes place in a Facebook group, and it’s an awesome community of women. The woman who started the group (who happens to be a friend of mine) does a monthly self-promotional thread for group members to share what they’re working on and what opportunities they are open to. I’ve seen people on this thread get commissioned for design work and also find job interview opportunities — and only because they weren’t afraid to promote themselves!
Additionally, my mother absolutely swears by NextDoor for everything from vacation rental recommendations to finding a nearby pet sitter. You can use that platform and other local forums to promote your side services. Once you get comfortable in “smaller” online settings, you’ll likely find it easier to promote yourself professionally on your social media, too! You never know when a friend of a friend is looking for a dog walker, a house painter, a web developer, a graphic designer, a carpenter, or whatever kind of work you’re looking for.
One parting secret: finding new freelance clients or side hustle opportunities is a lot easier once you have a few solid clients under your belt. After you get over the hump of getting started and build up your reputation (i.e. doing the work!), the easier it will be to find new clients. And the more testimonials and/or examples you can put on your website, the better!
If you’re ready to get started building your own website head to Squarespace.com for a free trial. With our offer code “FINANCIALDIET,” you can also save 10% off your first purchase of any website or domain.